No. 500 NAI DT S5026C

Memorandum by the Department of Industry and Commerce on the Draft Commercial Treaty between France and the Irish Free State

Dublin, 29 December 1930

Memo on Draft Treaty between France and the Saorstát

Negotiated in Paris in June, 1930

It will be remembered that previous negotiations were carried on with the French Government during the years 1926 and 1927. For various reasons agreement was not reached and negotiations on the principles contained in the first draft were abandoned. The position was made somewhat more difficult by the fact that at a late stage of the first negotiations the Saorstát duties on wines were increased.

As time passed the wine-growers in France became more clamant and brought pressure to bear on the French Government not to continue the grant of most-favoured nation treatment to Saorstát goods, on the grounds that French wines were being unfairly treated. The contention of the French Government was that the Saorstát duties on wines were the highest in the world and that, as a Government, they were impeded in negotiations with other countries by the fact that most-favoured nation treatment was being given to the goods of a country which imposed such heavy duties on French wines. The position was so difficult that it was found necessary to arrange, towards the end of 1928, that the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Defence should pay an official visit to Paris and explain the position of the Saorstát Government in the matter of Saorstát-French commercial relations.

This visit proved useful but early in 1929 the French Government put forward a proposal for the revision of the Saorstát duties on wines on a general basis which would result in some relief being granted to light wines of the type produced in France while avoiding a specific concession by the Saorstát Government to French wines as such. Little or no progress was made during the year 1929 in the direction of meeting the wishes of the French Government and towards the end of that year definite demands appeared in the French press for action on the part of the French Government in defence of French wine-growing interests. The position necessitated that in November 1929 a letter, signed by the President, should be addressed to the French Consul-General in Dublin stating that the Government of the Saorstát would be prepared at an early date to reopen negotiations with the French Government on the basis of the proposals contained in the communication of January, 1929, from the French Government1. This step was taken to prevent Saorstát exports and, in particular, the trade in Ford Tractors to France, being seriously interfered with if, as a result of action by the French Government, the Saorstát lost the benefits of most-favoured nation treatment.

As a result of negotiations in Paris, in January 1930, arrangements were made and carried into effect by an exchange of notes, that certain changes in the method of levying the duties on wines entering the Saorstát would be adopted. The effect of these changes was to reduce the duties on lighter wines of the type produced in France. In return for this concession the French Government expressed its willingness to conclude a Treaty with the Saorstát Government generally on the most-favoured nation principle and to grant the benefits of the minimum tariff to all goods originating in the Saorstát.

In accordance with this arrangement, the Finance Act of 1930 contained provisions which altered the wine duties in the way arranged for in the exchange of notes of January 1930, and in the month of June 1930 negotiations for a Definitive Treaty of Commerce were opened at Paris.

A draft text was provisionally agreed between representatives of the two Governments and subject to approval both in principle and in detail by both Governments. This draft text has been examined and approved by all Departments of the Saorstát and is now presented for final approval prior to signature. A decision is urgent for the reason that the exchange of notes of January 1930 provided that the negotiations should be completed within one year.

The draft Treaty under consideration follows the general principles previously approved in the German Treaty by the Executive Council, viz. the grant of most-favoured nation terms, subject to the reservation of Commonwealth customs preferences, in exchange for most-favoured nation treatment by the French Government. This includes the grant of the benefits of the minimum French Customs Tariff, without reserve, for Saorstát goods.

1 Not printed.

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